The services sector has proven itself the champion of Alaska business growth in the 1990s, and economists expect the reign to continue in the 21st century.
Service industries in the state averaged about 3.5 percent growth each year in the last decade, according to the state Department of Labor.
And the May issue of the department's research magazine forecasts that service jobs will lead employment growth in Alaska in 2000 and 2001. Trade and transportation are expected to take second and third place, respectively.
The service sector is diverse, encompassing everything from health care to hotels, and from tourism operators to business services.
Health care is the largest industry in the services sector and is growing fast, said Neal Fried, state labor economist.
Air transportation is also up, Fried said. The retail industry, which has been one of the fastest growing areas in the past, is not expected to bring major growth in the future, he said.
However, Alaska differs from other U.S. states in its lack of computer technology industry growth, he said.
``One area where we don't have a lot of growth but other parts of the country do is IT (information technology) and high-tech,'' Fried said.
The health care industry, unlike others in Alaska, is growing independent of cycles in the economy, said Scott Goldsmith, an economist at the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Tourism and air freight services also have been expanding, but not for as long as the health care industry, he said.
This article first appeared in the Alaska Journal of Commerce.